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GAGLIOSTRO— A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 



"Mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur." — 
Latin Proverb. 

"The pseudo- mystic, who deceives the 
world because he knows that the world wishes 
to be deceived, becomes an attractive subject 
for psychological analysis." — Hugo Munster- 
berg : Psychology and Life. 



MY favorite haunt in Paris is the Quai Voltaire, because of the 
delightful book-stalls that line its parapet, presided over by 
the quaintest of Norman bouquinistes. The second-hand literature 
of the world may be found here. Amid the flotsam and jetsam of 
old books tossed upon this inhospitable shore of literary endeavor, 
many a precious Elzevir and Aldus has been picked up. On a 
pleasant summer day, while strolling along the Quai, I chanced 
upon a rare volume, entitled : Vie de Joseph Balsamo, connu sous le 
nom de Comte Cagliostro. Traduite d'apres V original it alien, imprime 
a la chambre Apostolique; enriche de notes curieuses, et ornde de son 
Portrait. Paris et Strasbourg, 1791. Yes, here was the biography 
of the famous necromancer of the old regime, the prince of charla- 
tans, who foretold the fall of the Bastille, the bosom friend of the 
Cardinal de Rohan, and founder of the Egyptian Rite of Free- 
masonry. Fascinated with the subject of magic and magicians, I 
visited the Bibliotheque Nationale and dipped into the literature 
on Cagliostro. Subsequently, at the British Museum, I examined 
the rare brochures and old files of the Courier de V Europe for infor- 
mation concerning the incomparable necromancer, who made use 
of hypnotism, and, like Mesmer, performed many strange feats of 



524 



THE MONIST. 



pseudo-magic. Goethe and Catherine II. wrote plays about him, 
Alexander Dumas made him the hero of a dozen novels, and Tho- 
mas Carlyle philosophised concerning him. To understand Cagli- 
ostro, one must understand the times in which he lived and acted 
his strange world-drama, its philosophical and religious back- 
ground. 

The arch-enchanter appeared on this mortal scene when the 
times were "out of joint." It was the latter part of that strange, 
romantic eighteenth century of scepticism and credulity. The old 




/ 



>» 




3£s '" €*£v. 



From a painting in the Versailles Historical 
Gallery. 



After an engraving which served as a frontis- 
piece of Balsamo's Life, published in 1791. 



Joseph Balsamo, Known as Count Cagliostro. 
world like a huge Cheshire cheese was being nibbled away from 
within, until little but the rind was left to tell the tale. The rotten 
fabric of French society in particular was about to tumble down in 
the sulphurous flames of the Revolution, and the very people who 
were to suffer most in the calamity were doing their best to assist 
in the process of social and political disintegration, seemingly care- 
less of the impending storm whose black clouds were slowly gather- 
ing. The more sceptical the age, the more credulity extant. Man 
begins by denying, and then doubts his doubts. Charles Kingsley 
says: "And so it befell, that this eighteenth century, which is usu- 



CAGLIOSTRO A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 



525 



ally held to be the most ' materialistic ' of epochs, was in fact a 
most 'spiritualistic' one." The soil was well fertilised for the com- 
ing of Cagliostro, the sower of superstition. Every variety of mys- 
ticism appealed to the imaginative mind. There were societies of 
illuminati, Rosicrucians, alchemists, and Occult Freemasons. 

Speaking of the great charlatan, the Anglo-Indian essayist 
Greeven says : "It is not enough to say that Cagliostro posed as a 
magician, or stood forth as the apostle of a mystic religion. After 



MEMOIRE 

POUR 

LE COMTE DE CAGLIOSTRO 1 
ACCUSE; 

CONTRE 

M. LE PROCUREUR-GENERAL* 

ACCUSATEURs 

En. preTence dc .M. le Cardinal DI 

ROHAN , de la Cotnteffc DE LA 

MOTTE, ct autres Co-Accusis. 



M. de Cagliostro ne demands que TRAN- 
QUILLITY bt SURETY L'HOSPlTALITfi 
LBS LUI ASSURE. E XT RAIT a* tint Ltttrt icrite 
par M. U Come de Verges Hes \ Minifirt de$ 
Af aires Etrangirts , A M. GiRARD , Prittur de 
Strasbourg i le 13 Mars 1783. 



TITLE-PAGE OF THE DEFENSE OF CAGLIOSTRO. 



V I E 

DE JOSEPH BALSAMO, 

CONNO SOUS LE NOM 

DE 

COMTE CAGLIOSTRO, 

Extnite de la Procedure instruite 
contre luid Rome, en 1790, 

Tradiiite d'apres Voriginal italien > 
imprim6 k la Chambre Apostolique ; 
enriehie de Notes curtaues >• etornee 
de son Portrait. 



A P ARI S, 
Che* pKfROT, libraire , rue Saiat-Vicforj n«. 1 1. 

st ▲ STRASBOURG, 
Chez Jbam-Gborob Treottel, libraire* 



1791. 

TITLE-PAGE OP THE LIFE OF CAGLIOSTRO. 



all, in its mild way, our own generation puts on its evening dress 
to worship at the feet of mediums, whose familiar spirits enable 
them to wriggle out of ropes in cupboards, or to project cigarette 
papers from the ceiling [d la Madame Blavatsky]. We ride our 
hobby, however, only when the whim seizes us, and, as soon as it 
wearies, we break it in pieces and fling it aside with a laugh. But 
Cagliostro impressed himself deeply on the history of his time. He 
flashed on the world like a meteor. He carried it by storm. Princes 
and nobles thronged to his ' magic operations.' They prostrated 



526 THE MONIST. 

themselves before him for hours. His horses and his coaches and 
his liveries rivalled a king's in magnificence. He was offered, and 
refused, a ducal throne. No less illustrious a writer than the Em- 
press of Russia deemed him a worthy subject of her plays. Goethe 
made him the hero of a famous drama. A French Cardinal and an 
English Lord were his bosom companions. In an age which arro- 
gated to itself the title of the philosophic, the charm of his eloquence 
drew thousands to his Lodges, in which he preached the mysteries 
of his Egyptian ritual, as revealed to him by the Grand- Kophta 
under the shadow of the pyramids.'' 



And now for a brief review of his life. Joseph Balsamo, the 
son of Peter Balsamo and Felicia Braconieri, both of humble ex- 
traction, was born at Palermo, on the eighth day of June, 1743. 
He received the rudiments of an education at the Seminary of St. 
Roche, Palermo. At the age of thirteen, according to the Inquisi- 
tion biographer, he was intrusted to the care of the Father-General 
of the Benfratelli, who carried him to the Convent of that Order at 
Cartagirone. There he put on the habit of a novice, and, being 
placed under the tuition of the apothecary, he learned from him 
the first principles of chemistry and medicine. He proved incorri- 
gible and was expelled from the monastry in disgrace. Then be- 
gan a life of dissipation in the city of Palermo. He was accused 
of forging theatre-tickets and a will. Finally he had to flee the city 
for having duped a goldsmith named Marano of sixty pieces of 
gold, by promising to assist him in unearthing a buried treasure by 
magical means. The superstitious Marano entered a cavern situ- 
ated in the environs of Palermo, according to instructions given to 
him by the enchanter, and discovered, not a chest full af gold, but 
a crowd of Balsamo's confederates, who, disguised as infernal spir- 
its, administered to him a terrible castigation. Furious at the de 
ception, the goldsmith vowed to assassinate the pretended sorcerer 
Balsamo, however, took wing to Messina, where he fell in with a 
strolling mountebank and alchemist named Althotas, or Altotas, 
who spoke a variety of languages. They travelled to Alexandria in 



CAGLIOSTRO- — A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 527 

Egypt, and finally brought up at the island of Malta. Pinto, the 
Grand Master of the Knights of Malta, was a searcher after the 
philosopher's stone, an enthusiastic alchemist. He extended a 
warm reception to the two adventurers, and took them under his 
patronage. They remained for some time at Malta, working in the 
laboratory of the deluded Pinto. Eventually Althotas died, and 
Balsamo went to Naples, afterwards to Rome, where he married a 
beautiful ^girdle-maker, named Lorenza Feliciani. Together with a 
swindler calling himself the Marchese d'Agliata, he had a series of 
disreputable adventures in Italy, Spain, and Portugal. 

Unmasked at one place he fled in hot haste to another. Be- 
hold him on his travels with coach-and-four, flunkies and outriders 
in gorgeous liveries, vehicles filled with baggage and parapher- 
nalia ; all alchemists, magicians, and masons must have parapher- 
nalia — retorts, crucibles, alembics, baquets, disguises, mirrors, 
draperies, candelabra, sashes, swords, etc., etc. Best of all he 
carries with him an iron coffer, which contains the silver, gold, and 
jewels reaped from princely dupes. Behold the Arch-Master of 
Egyptian Masonry, the hero of the Pyramids, the Rosicrucian 
reputed to be able to make himself invisible, fleeing from the police 
in fashion prosaic. 

In 1776 he arrived in London. He had assumed various aliases 
during the course of his life, but now he called himself the "Conte 
di Cagliostro," borrowed from an aunt, who bore the name without 
the title. His beautiful wife called herself the "Countess Serafina 
Feliciani." Cagliostro announced himself as a worker of wonders, 
especially in medicine. He carried about two mysterious sub- 
stances — a red powder, known as his "Materia Prima," with which 
he transmuted baser metals into gold, and his "Egyptian Wine," 
with which he prolonged life. 

He dropped hints that he was the son of the Grand-Master 
Pinto of Malta and the Princess of Trebizonde. He foretold the 
lucky numbers in a lottery and got into difficulty with a gang of 
swindlers, which caused him to flee from England to avoid being 
imprisoned. While in London he picked up, at a second-hand 
book-stall, the mystic writings of an obscure spiritist, one George 



528 THE MONIST. 

Cofton, or Coston, " which suggested to him the idea of the Egyp- 
tian ritual"; and he got himself initiated into a masonic lodge, so 
say the pamphleteers. It is asserted that he received the degrees 
of the Blue Lodge in the month of April, 1776, in the Esperance 
Lodge, No. 369, held at the King's Head Tavern ; but there is no 
documentary evidence in support of this statement. It is difficult 
to say where Cagliostro was initiated into the degrees of free- 
masonry. I have had some correspondence with masonic scholars 
in England and on the Continent, but they have been able to shed 
no light on the subject. Cagliostro is regarded as the greatest 
masonic imposter of the world. His pretensions were bitterly repu- 
diated by the English members of the fraternity, and many of the 
Continental lodges. But the fact remains that he made thousands 
of dupes. As Grand Master of the Egyptian Rite he leaped at once 
into fame. His swindling operations were now conducted on a 
gigantic scale. He had the entree into the best society. Accord- 
ing to him, freemasonry was founded by Enoch and Elias. It was 
open to both sexes. Its present form, especially with regard to 
the exclusion of women, is a corruption. The true form was pre- 
served only by the Grand Kophta, or High Priest of the Egyptians. 
By him it was revealed to Cagliostro. The votaries of any religion 
are admissible, subject to these conditions, (1) that they believe in 
the existence of a God ; (2) that they believe in the immortality of 
the soul ; and (3) that they have been initiated into common Ma- 
sonry. The candidate must swear an oath of secrecy, and obedi- 
ence to the Secret Superiors. It is divided into the usual three 
grades of Apprentice, Fellowcraft, and Mastermason. 

In this system he promised his followers " to conduct them to 
perfection, by means of a physical and moral regeneration ; to enable 
them by the former (or physical) to find the prime matter, or Phi- 
losopher's Stone, and the acacia, which consolidates in man the 
forces of the most vigorous youth and renders them immortal ; and 
by the latter (or moral) to procure them a Pantagon, which should 
restore man to his primitive state of innocence, lost by original 
sin." 

The meetings of the Egyptian lodges were nothing more than 



CAGLIOSTRO — A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 529 

spiritualistic stances, during which communications were held with 
the denizens of the celestial spheres, and many mysteries unfolded 
of time and eternity. The medium was a young lad or a girl, who 
is in the state of innocence, called the Pupil or the Colomb. Cagli- 
ostro declared Moses, Elias, and Christ to be the Secret Superiors 
of the Order. "They have attained to such perfection in masonry 
that, exalted into higher spheres, they are able to create fresh 
worlds for the glory of the Lord. Each is still the head of a secret 
community. " 

No wonder the Egyptian Rite became popular among lovers of 
the marvellous, for it promised its votaries, who should attain to 
perfection, or adeptship, the power of transmuting baser metals 
into gold, or prolonging life indefinitely by means of an elixir; 
communion with the spirits of the dead, telepathy, etc. 

Cagliostro often boasted of his great age. He claimed to have 
been one of the guests at the marriage feast at Cana and to have 
witnessed the Crucifixion. From England he went to the Hague, 
where he inaugurated a lodge of female masons, over which his 
wife presided as Grand Mistress. Throughout Holland he was 
received by the lodges with masonic honors — beneath "arches of 
steel." He discoursed volubly upon magic and masonry to en- 
raptured thousands. In March, 1779, he made his appearance at 
Mitau, in the Baltic Provinces, which he regarded as the step- 
ping-stone to St. Petersburg. He placed great hope in Catherine 
II. of Russia — "the avowed champion of advanced thought." He 
hoped to promulgate widely his new and mysterious religious cult 
in the land of the Czars, with all the pomp and glamour of the 
East. The nobility of Kurland received him with open arms. 
Some of them offered to place him on the ducal throne, so he 
claimed. He wisely refused the offer. Cagliostro eventually made 
a fiasco at Mitau and left in hot haste. In St. Petersburg his 
stay was short. Catherine II. was too clever a woman to be his 
dupe. She ordered the charlatan to leave Russia, which he forth- 
with did. Prospects of Siberia doubtless hastened his departure. 
In May, 1780, he turned up at Warsaw. A leading prince lodged 
him in his palace. Here Cagliostro " paraded himself in the white 



53° THE M ONI ST. 

shoes and red heels of a noble." His spirit stances were not a 
success. He chose as his clairvoyant a little girl, eight years of 
age. After pouring oil into her hands, he closed her in a room, 
the door of which was hung with a black curtain. The spectators 
sat outside. He interrogated the child concerning the visions that 
appeared to her. Among other tests, he requested ithe spectators 
to inscribe their names on a piece of paper which he appeared to 
burn before their very eyes. Calling to the child that a note would 
flutter down at her feet, he requested her to pass it to him through 
the door. He passed his hand through the opening of the door to 
receive the note. In the next instant he produced a note closed 
with a freemason's seal, which contained the signatures of each of 
the spectators. This was nothing more than the trick of a presti- 
digitateur, such as was performed by Philadelphia and Pinetti, the 
two great sleight-of-hand artists of the period. The next day the 
clairvoyant confessed the fact that she had been tutored by the 
magician, and that the visions were but figments of the imagina- 
tion. Cagliostro secured a new subject, a girl of sixteen, but had 
the folly to fall in love with his accomplice. In exasperation she 
repeated the confession of her predecessor. The Polish nobles 
now insisted that Cagliostro invoke the spirit of the Grand Kophta 
(the Egyptian High Priest). This seance took place "in a dark 
room, on a sort of stage, lit with two candles only, and filled with 
clouds of incense." The Grand Kophta appeared. Through the 
uncertain light the spectators beheld an imposing figure in white 
robes and turban. A snowy beard fell upon its breast. 

"What see ye?" cried in a hoarse voice the sage of the pyra- 
mids. 

"I see," replied a sceptical gentleman from the audience, 
"that Monsieur le Comte de Cagliostro has disguised himself with 
a mask and a white beard." 

Everybody recognised the portly figure of the vision. A rush 
seemed imminent. Quick as thought, the Grand Kophta, by a 
wave of his hands, extinguished the two candles. A sound followed 
as the slipping off of a mantle. The tapers were relit. Cagliostro 
was observed sitting where the sage had disappeared. 



CAGLIOSTRO — A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 53 1 

At Wola, in a private laboratory, he pretended to transmute 
mercury into silver. The scene must have been an impressive 
one. Girt with a freemason's apron, and standing on a black floor 
marked with cabalistic symbols in chalk, Cagliostro worked at the 
furnace. In the gloom of twilight the proceedings were held. By 
a clever substitution of crucibles, Cagliostro apparently accom- 
plished the feat of transmutation, but the fraud was detected the 
next morning, when one of the servants of the house discovered 
the original crucible containing the mercury, which had been cast 
upon a pile of rubbish by the pretended alchemist, or one of his 
confederates. 

In September, 1780, Cagliostro arrived at Strasburg. Here he 
was received with unbounded enthusiasm. He lavished money 
right and left, cured the poor without pay, and treated the great 
with haughtiness. Just outside of the city he erected a country 
villa in Chinese architecture, wherein to hold his Egyptian lodges. 
This place was long pointed out as the Cagliostraeum. The peas- 
ants are said to have passed it with uncovered heads, such were 
their admiration and awe of the great wonder-worker. At Strasburg 
resided at that time the Cardinal Louis de Rohan, who was anxious 
to meet the magician. Cagliostro, to whom the fact was reported, 
said : '< If the Cardinal is sick, he may come to me and I will cure 
him; if he is well, he has no further need of me, nor I of him." 
Cardinal de Rohan, enormously rich, a libertine, an amateur dab- 
bler in alchemy and the occult sciences, was now more anxious 
than ever to become acquainted with the charlatan. Such disdain 
on the part of a layman was a new experience to the haughty 
churchman. His imagination, too, was fired by the stories told of 
the enchanter. The upshot of it was that Cagliostro and the Car- 
dinal became bosom friends. The prelate invited the juggler and 
his wife to live at his episcopal palace. 

The Baroness Oberkirch who saw him there says in her mem- 
oirs : "No one can ever form the faintest idea of the fervor with 
which everybody pursued Cagliostro. He was surrounded, be- 
sieged; every one trying to win a glance or a word.... A dozen 
ladies of rank and two actresses had followed him in order to con- 



532 THE MONIST. 

tinue their treatment. ... If I had not seen it, I should never have 
imagined that a Prince of the Roman Church, a man in other re- 
spects intelligent and honorable, could so far let himself be imposed 
upon as to renounce his dignity, his free will, at the bidding oi a. 
sharper." 

Cagliostro said to the Cardinal one day: "Your soul is worthy 
of mine, and you desire to be the confidant of all my secrets." He 
presented the Cardinal with a diamond worth 20,000 francs which 
he pretended to have made, the churchman claiming to have been 
an eye-witness of the operation. The Cardinal said to the Baron- 
ess : "But that is not all ; he makes gold : he has made five or six 
thousand francs worth before me, up there in the top of the palace. 
I am to have more; I am to have a great deal; he will make me 
the richest prince in Europe. These are not dreams, madame ; 
they are proofs. And his prophecies that have come true! And 
the miraculous cures that he has wrought ! [He really cured the Car- 
dinal of the asthma.] I tell you, he is the most extraordinary man, 
the sublimest man in the world." 

Finally he bade adieu to Strasburg, and set out for Lyons in 
great pomp, with lackeys, grooms, guards armed with battle-axes, 
and heralds garbed in cloth of gold, blowing trumpets. In the year 
1785 he founded at Lyons the Lodge of Triumphant Wisdom, and 
made many converts to his mystical doctrines. The fame of his 
Egyptian masonry reached Paris and created quite a stir among 
the lodges. The chiefs of a masonic convocation assembled in 
Paris wrote to him for information concerning his new rite. He 
scornfully refused to have anything to do with them, unless they 
burned all their masonic books and implements as useless trash 
and acknowledged their futility, claiming that his Egyptian Rite 
was the only true freemasonry and worthy of cultivation among 
men of learning. His next move was to the French Capital. 

Cagliostro's greatest triumph was achieved at Paris. A gay 
and frivolous aristocracy, mad after new sensations, welcomed the 
magician with open arms. The way had been paved for him by 
St. Germain and Mesmer. He made his appearance in the French 
Capital January 30, 1785. Fantastic stories were circulated about 



CAGLIOSTRO — A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 533 

him. The Cardinal de Rohan selected and furnished a hotel for 
him, and visited him three or four times a week, arriving at dinner 
time and remaining until an advanced hour in the night. It was 
said that the great Cardinal assisted the sorcerer in his labors, and 
many persons spoke of the mysterious laboratory where gold bub- 
bled and diamonds sparkled in crucibles brought to a white heat. 
But nobody except Cagliostro, and perhaps the Cardinal, ever en- 
tered that mysterious laboratory. All that was known for a cer- 
tainty was that the apartments were furnished with Oriental splen- 
dor, and that Count Cagliostro in a dazzling costume received his 
guests with kingly dignity, and gave them his hand to kiss. Upon 
a black marble slab in the antechamber carved in golden letters 
was the universal prayer of Alexander Pope. " Father of all! in 
every age," etc., the parody of which ten years later Paris sang as 
a hymn to the Supreme Being. 

Says Funck-Brentano in The Diamond Necklace r 1 "At Paris 
Cagliostro showed himself what he had been at Strasburg, digni- 
fied and reserved. He refused with haughtiness the invitations to 
dinner sent to him by the Count of Artois, brother of the king, and 
the Duke of Chartres, prince of the blood. He proclaimed himself 
chief of the Rosicrucians, who regarded themselves as chosen 
beings placed above the rest of mankind, and he gave to his adepts 
the rarest pleasure. . ...To all who pressed him with questions as to 
who he was, he replied in a grave voice, knitting his eyebrows and 
pointing his forefinger towards the sky, ' I am he who is ' ; and as 
it was difficult to make out that he was 'he who is not,' the only 
thing was to bow with an air of profound deference. 

"He possessed the science of the ancient priests of Egypt. 
His conversation turned generally on three points : (i) Universal 
Medicine, of which the secrets were known to him. (2) Egyptian 
Freemasonry, which he wished to restore, and of which he had just 
established a parent lodge at Lyons, for Scotch masonry, then pre- 
dominant in France, was in his eyes only an inferior, degenerate 
form. (3) The Philosopher's Stone, which was to ensure the trans- 
mutation of all the imperfect metals into fine gold, 
translated by H. S. Edwards, Philadelphia, 1901. 



534 THE monist. 

"He thus gave to humanity, by his universal medicine, bodily 
health; by Egyptian masonry, spiritual health; and by the philos- 
opher's stone, infinite wealth." These were his principal secrets, 
but he had a host of others, that of predicting the winning num- 
bers in lotteries ; prophesying as to the future ; softening marble 
and restoring it to its pristine hardness ; of giving to cotton the 
lustre and softness of silk, which has been re-invented in our day 
by a chemical process. 

Among the many. stories told of Cagliostro, that of the supper 
in the hotel of the Rue Saint Claude, where the ghosts made merry, 
still holds the record. Six guests and the host took their places at 
a round table upon which there were thirteen covers. Each guest 
pronounced the name of the dead man whose spirit he wished to 
appear at the banquet table. Cagliostro, concentrating his mys- 
terious forces, gave the invitation in a solemn and commanding 
tone. One after another the six guests appeared. They were the 
Due de Choiseul, Voltaire, d'Alembert, Diderot, the Abbe de Voi- 
senon, and Montesquieu. 

"When the living diners recovered their breath, the conversa- 
tion began, but, unfortunately for the great ghosts, the record of 
their conversation makes them talk stupid nonsense. Perhaps this 
may be taken as evidence of the theory that a man loses his head 
when he dies. At all events, the story created a sensation in Paris. 
It reached the court, and one evening, when the conversation 
turned upon the banquet of the ghosts, the king frowned, shrugged 
his shoulders, and resumed his game of cards. The queen became 
indignant, and forbade the mention of the name of the charlatan in 
her presence. Nevertheless, some of the light-headed ladies of the 
court burned for an introduction to the superb sorcerer. They 
begged Lorenza Feliciani to get him to give them a course of lec- 
tures or lessons in magic to which no gentlemen were to be ad- 
mitted. Lorenza replied that he would consent, provided there 
were thirty-six pupils. The list was made up in a day, and a week 
afterward the fair dames got their first lesson. But they talked of 
it, and of course the story got loose. This caused another scandal, 
and consequently the first lesson was the last." 



CAGLIOSTRO — A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 535 

Cagliostro's Egyptian Rite of Masonry was well received in 
Paris, especially the lodge for ladies, which was presided over by 
the beautiful Lorenza, his wife. It was appropriately called Isis, 
Among the members of this female lodge were the Countesses de 
Brienne, Dessalles, de Polignac, de Brissac, de Choiseul, d'Espin- 
chal, the Marchioness d'Avrincourt, and Mmes. de Lom£nie, de 
Genlis, de Bercy, de Trevieres, etc. 

Cagliostro lived like a lord, thanks to the revenues obtained 
from the initiates into his masonic rite, and the money which he 
unquestionably received from his dupe, the Cardinal de Rohan, 
who was magic mad. 

"His wife," says a gossipy writer, "was rarely seen, but by 
all accounts she was a woman of bewildering beauty, realising the 
Greek lines in all their antique purity and enhanced by an Italian 
expression. The most enthusiastic of her so-called admirers were 
precisely those who had never seen her face. There were many 
duels to decide the question as to the color of her eyes, some con- 
tending that they were black, and others that they were blue. Duels 
were also fought over a dimple which some admirers insisted was 
on the right cheek, while others said that the honor belonged to the 
left cheek. She appeared to be no more than twenty years old but 
she spoke sometimes of her eldest son, who was for some years a 
captain in the Dutch army." 

The magician's sojourn in Paris caused the greatest excite- 
ment. Prints, medallions, and marble busts of him were to be seen 
everywhere. He was called by his admirers "the divine Cagli- 
ostro." To one of the old portraits was appended the following 
verse : 

" De l'Ami des Humains reconnaissez les traits : 
Tous ses jours sont marque's par de nouveaux bienfaits, 
II prolonge la Vie, il secourt Tindigence ; 
Le plaisir d'etre utile est seul sa recompense." 

Hats and neckties were named after him. In Paris as in Stras- 
burg, he gave away large sums of money to the poor and cured 
them of their ailments free of charge. His mansion was always 
crowded with noble guests. The idle aristocracy could find noth- 



536 



THE MONIST. 



ing better to do than attend the spirit stances of the charlatan. 
The shades of Voltaire, Rousseau, and other dead celebrities were 
summoned from the "vasty deep," impersonated doubtless by 
clever confederates in the pay of Cagliostro, often aided by me- 
chanical and optical accessories. The art of phantasmagoria, in 
which the concave mirror plays a part, was well known to the 
enchanter. The Count de Beugnot gives in detail, in his interest- 




Bust of Cagliostro. 

After Houdoo. 

(In the possession of M. Storelli.) 



Cagliostro 

From Vie de Josef h Balsamo, etc 

Paris, 1 791. 



ing autobiography, an account of Cagliostro's performances at the 
residences of Madame de la Motte and the Cardinal De Rohan. 
Abridged by Saint Amand, we have the following statement: "As 
a sorcerer, he [Cagliostro] had a cabalistic apparatus. On a table 
with a black cloth, on which were embroidered in red the mysteri- 
ous signs of the highest degree of the Rosicrucians, there stood the 



CAGLIOSTRO A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 537 

emblems; little Egyptian figures, old vials filled with lustral wa- 
ters, and a crucifix very like, though not the same as, the Chris- 
tian's cross; and there, too, Cagliostro placed a glass globe filled 
with clarified water. Before the globe he used to place a kneeling 
seer ; that is to say, a young woman who, by supernatural powers, 
should behold the scenes which were believed to take place in the 
water within the magic globe." 

In the mysticism of the twentieth century this would be called 
Crystal Vision or Crystal Gazing, Cagliostro added to the mis e- en- 
scene of the occasion by appearing in gorgeous robes. He would 
make mesmeric passes over the youthful clairvoyant, and summon 
the geniuses of the earth, air, and water, and the angels of the 
spheres, to enter the globe. "The seer became convulsed, she 
ground her teeth, and exhibited every sign of nervous excitement. 
At last she saw and began to speak. What was taking place that 
very moment hundreds of miles from Paris, in Vienna or St. Peters- 
burg, in Austria or Pekin," etc. "It would be hard," says Count 
Beugnot, "to believe that such scenes could have taken place in 
France at the end of the eighteenth century ; yet they aroused 
great interest among people of importance in the Court and the 
town." 

An interesting pen portrait of Cagliostro is contained in Beu- 
gnot's memoirs. The Count met the enchanter for the first time at 
the house of Madame de la Motte : 

"Cagliostro was of medium height, rather stout, with an olive 
complexion, a very short neck, round face, two large eyes on a 
level with the cheeks, and a broad, turned-up nose. . . .His hair was 
dressed in a way new to France, being divided into several small 
tresses that united behind the head, and were twisted up into what 
was then called a club. 

"He wore on that day an iron gray coat of French make, with 
gold lace, a scarlet waistcoat trimmed with broad Spanish lace, red 
breeches, his sword looped to the skirt of his coat, and a laced hat 
with a white feather, the latter a decoration still required of mounte- 
banks, tooth-drawers and other medical practitioners, who pro- 
claim and retail their drugs in the open air. Cagliostro set off this 



53^ THE MONIST. 

costume by lace ruffles, several valuable rings, and shoe-buckles 
which were, it is true, of antique design, but bright enough to be 
taken for real diamonds .... The face, attire, and the whole man 
made an impression on me that I could not prevent. I listened to 
the talk. He spoke some sort of medley, half French and half Ital- 
ian, and made many quotations which might be Arabic, but which 
he did not trouble himself to translate. I could not remember any 
more of [his conversation] than that the hero had spoken of heaven, 
of the stars, of the Great Secret, of Memphis, of the high-priest, of 
transcendental chemistry, of giants and monstrous beasts, of a city 
ten times as large as Paris, in the middle of Africa, where he had 
correspondents. " 

in. 

Cagliostro was at the height of his fame, when suddenly he 
was arrested and thrown into the Bastille. He was charged with 
complicity in the affair of the Diamond Necklace. Here is his own 
account of the arrest: "On the 22d of August, 1786, a commis- 
sarie, an exempt, and eight policemen entered my home. The pil- 
lage began in my presence. They compelled me to open my secre- 
tary. Elixirs, balms, and precious liquors all became the prey of 
the officers who came to arrest me. I begged the commissarie to 
permit me to use my carriage. He refused ! The agent took me 
by the collar. He had pistols, the stocks of which appeared from 
the pockets of his coat. They hustled me into the street and 
scandalously dragged me along the boulevard all the way to the 
rue Notre- Dame du-Nazareth. There a carriage appeared which I 
was permitted to enter to take the road to the Bastille.'* 

What was this mysterious affair of the Diamond Necklace 
which led to his incarceration in a state prison? In brief the story 
is as follows : 

The court jeweler, M. Bohmer, had in his possession a magnifi- 
cent diamond necklace, valued at 1,800,000 livres originally de- 
signed for the ivory neck of the fair but frail Madame Du Barry, 
mistress of Louis XV. But Louis — "the well beloved" — died be- 
fore the necklace was completed ; the Sultana went into exile, and 



CAGLIOSTRO — A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 539 

the unlucky jeweler found himself with the diamond collar on his 
hands instead of on the neck of the Du Barry. He was obliged to 
dispose of it, or become a bankrupt. Twice he offered it to Marie 
Antoinette, but she refused to purchase it, or permit her husband, 
Louis XVI., to do so, alleging that France had more urgent need 
of war ships than jewels. Poor Bohmer, distracted at her refusal 
to buy the necklace, threatened to commit suicide. The matter 
became food for gossip among the quid nuncs of the Court. Un- 
fortunate necklace, it led to one of the most romantic intrigues of 
history, involving in its jeweled toils a Queen, a cardinal, an ad- 
venturess, a courtesan, and a conjurer. Living at the village of 
Versailles at the time was the Countess de la Motte, an ex-mantua 
maker, and a descendant of an illegitimate scion of the Valois fam- 
ily, who had committed a forgery under Louis XIII. Her husband 
was a sort of gentleman-soldier in the gendarmerie ; a gambler and 
a rake. Madame de la Motte- Valois, boasting of the royal blood 
that flowed in her veins, had many times petitioned the King to 
assist her. A small pension had been granted, but it was totally 
inadequate to supply her wants. She wished also to gain a foot- 
hold at Versailles and flutter amidst the butterfly-countesses of the 
Oeil de Boeuf. Looking about for a noble protector, some one who 
could advance her claims, she pitched upon the Cardinal de Rohan 
who was Grand Almoner of the King. He supplied her with money, 
but accomplished very little else for her. Though Grand Almoner 
and a Cardinal, Louis de Rohan was non persona grata at the court. 
He was cordially detested by Marie Antoinette not only because of 
his dissolute habits, but on account of slanderous letters he had 
written about her when she was still a Dauphiness. This coldness 
on the part of the Queen caused the Cardinal great anguish, as he 
longed to be Prime Minister, and sway the destinies of France 
through the Queen like a second Mazarin. More than that he 
loved the haughty Antoinette. All these things he confided to 
Madame de la Motte. When the story of Bohmer and the Diamond 
Necklace was noised abroad, Madame de la Motte conceived a plot 
of wonderful audacity. She determined to possess the priceless 
collar and make the Cardinal the medium of obtaining it. She de- 



54-0 THE MONIST. 

luded the Cardinal into the belief that she was in the Queen's con- 
fidence. She asserted that Marie Antoinette had at last yielded to 
her pleadings for recognition as a descendant of the Valois and 
granted her social interviews. She confided to him that the Queen 
secretly desired to be reconciled to him. She became the pretended 
" go-between " between the Cardinal and the Queen, and delivered 
numerous little notes to him, signed "Antoinette de France." 
Finally she arranged an interview for him, at night, in the park of 
Versailles, ostensibly with the Queen, but in reality with a young 
girl named D'Oliva who bore a remarkable resemblance to Marie 
Antoinette. The D'Oliva saw him only for a few moments and 
presented him with a rose. The Cardinal was completely duped. 
"Madame de la Motte persuaded him," says Greeven, "into the 
belief that the Queen was yearning for the necklace, but, as she 
could not afford it, he could assure himself of her favor by becom- 
ing security for the payment. She produced a forged instrument, 
which purported to have been executed by the Queen, and upon 
which he bound himself as security. ,, The necklace was delivered 
to the Cardinal, who handed it over to Madame de la Motte, to be 
given to Marie Antoinette. 

But, asks the curious reader, what has all this to do with Cag- 
liostro? What part had he to play in the drama? This: When 
the Comtesse de la Motte was arrested, she attempted to throw the 
blame of the affair upon the Cardinal and Cagliostro. She alleged 
that they had summoned her into one of their mystic seances. 
"After the usual hocus-pocus, the Cardinalmade over to her a cas- 
ket containing the diamonds without their setting, and directed her 
to deliver them to her husband, with instructions to dispose of 
them at once in London. Upon this information Cagliostro and 
his wife were arrested. He was detained, without hearing, from 
the 22d of August, 1785, until the 30th of January, 1786, when he 
was first examined by the Judges, and he was not set at liberty till 
the 1st of June, 1786." 

The trial was the most famous in the annals of the Parliament. 
Cagliostro and the Cardinal were acquitted with honor. The 
Countess de la Motte was sentenced to be exposed naked, with a 



CAGLIOSTRO — A STUDY IN CkARLATANISM. 



541 



rope around her neck, in front of the Conciergerie, and to be pub- 
licly whipped and branded by the hangman with the letter V ( Vo- 
leuse — thief} on each shoulder. She was further sentenced to life 
imprisonment in the prison for abandoned women. She escaped 
from the latter place, however, to London, where she was killed 
on the 23d day of August, 1791, by a fall from a window. The 
Count de la Motte was sentenced in contumacium. He was safe in 
London at the time and had disposed of the diamonds to various 
dealers. The d'Oliva was set free without punishment. The man 
who forged the letter for Madame de la Motte, her secretary Vil- 




Madamb db la Mottb's Escape. (After an English print of 1790.) 

lette, was banished for life. Countess Cagliostro was honorably 
discharged. 

The Cardinal was unquestionably innocent, as was fully estab- 
lished at the trial. His overweening ambition and his mad love 
for Marie Antoinette had rendered him an easy dupe to the machi- 
nations of the De la Mottes. But how was it with Cagliostro? The 
essayist Greeven, in an article published a few years ago in the 
Calcutta Review, seems to think that the alchemist was more or 
less mixed up in the swindle. He sums up the suspicions as fol- 
lows: "First, his [Cagliostro's] immense influence over the Cardi- 
nal, and his intimate relations with him, render it impossible that 



542 THE MONIST. 

so gigantic a fraud could have been practiced without his knowl- 
edge. Second, he was in league with the Countess for the purpose of 
deceiving the Cardinal, in connection with the Queen." M. Frantz 
Funck-Brentano, in his admirable history of the Diamond Neck- 
lace, based upon documents recently discovered in Paris [page 
283, Edwards's translation, Philadelphia, 1901]: "The idea of im- 
plicating Cagliostro in the intrigue had been conceived, as Georgel 
says, with diabolical cunning. If Jeanne de Valois had in the first 
instance made a direct accusation against Cardinal de Rohan, no 
one would have believed in it. But there was something mysteri- 
ous and suspicious about Cagliostro, and it was known what influ- 
ence he exercised on the mind of the Cardinal. 'The alchemist,' 
she suggested, 'took the necklace to pieces in order to increase by 
means of it the occult treasures of an unheard-of fortune.' 'To 
conceal his theft,' says Doillot [Madame de la Motte's lawyer], 'he 
ordered M. de Rohan, in virtue of the influence he had established 
over him, to sell some of the diamonds and to get a few of them 
mounted at Paris through the Countess de la Motte, and to get 
more considerable quantities mounted and sold in England by her 
husband.'. . . .Cagliostro had one unanswerable argument : the Car- 
dinal had made his agreement with the jewelers on the 29th of 
January, 1785, and he, Cagliostro, had only arrived in Paris at 
nine in the evening of the 30th." 

Cagliostro refuted the charges with wonderful sangfroid. He 
appeared in court "proud and triumphant in his coat of green silk 
embroidered with gold." "Who are you? and whence do you 
come?" asked the attorney for the crown. 

"I am an illustrious traveller," he answered bombastically. 
Every one present laughed. 

Cagliostro drove in triumph from the court house to his resi- 
dence, after hearing his order of discharge. His coach was pre- 
ceded by "a fantastic cripple, who distributed medicines and pres- 
ents among the crowd." He found the Rue St. Claude thronged 
with friends and sympathisers, anxious to welcome him home. At 
this period revolutionary sentiments were openly vented by the 
people of France. The throne was being undermined by the phi- 



CAGLIOSTRO A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 543 

losophers and politicians. Any excuse was made to revile Louis 
XVI. and his queen. Scurrilous pamphlets were published declar- 
ing that Marie Antoinette was equally guilty with the de la Mottes 
in the necklace swindle. Cagliostro consequently was regarded as 
a martyr to the liberties of man. His arrest under the detested 
lettre-de-cachet, upon mere suspicion, and long incarceration in the 
Bastille without trial, were indeed flagrant abuses of justice and 
gave his sympathisers a whip with which to lash the King and 
Court. 

His wife had been liberated some time before him. She met 
him at the door of the temple of magic, and he swooned in her 
arms. Whether this was a genuine swoon or not, it is impossible 
to say, for Cagliostro was ever a poseur and never neglected an op- 
portunity for theatrical effect and self-advertisement. He accused 
the Marquis de Launay, Governor of the Bastille — he who had his 
head chopped off and elevated upon a pike a few years later — of 
criminal misappropriation of his effects, money, medicines, alchem- 
ical powders, elixirs, etc., etc., which he valued at a high sum. 
The Commissioner of Police who arrested him was also included in 
this accusation. He appealed to his judges, who referred him to 
the Civil Courts. But the case never came to trial. The day after 
his acquittal he was banished from France by order of the King. 
At St. Denis, "his carriage drove between two dense and silent 
lines of well-wishers, while, as his vessel cleared from the port of 
Boulogne, five thousand persons knelt down on the shore to re- 
ceive his blessing. " He went direct to London. No sooner there, 
than he filed his suit against the Marquis de Launay, "appealing, 
of course, to the hearts of all Frenchmen as a lonely and hunted 
exile." The French Government, through its ambassador, granted 
him leave to come in person to Paris to prosecute his suit, assuring 
him of safe conduct and immunity from all prosecution, legal as 
well as social. But Cagliostro refused this offer, hinting that it was 
merely a stratagem to decoy him to Paris and reincarcerate him in 
a dungeon. No clear-headed, impartial person believed that the 
Marquis de Launay was guilty of the charge laid at his door. What- 
ever else he may have been, tyrannical, cold, unsympathetic, the 



544 THE monist. 

Governor of the -Bastille was a man of honor and above committing 
a theft. In fact, Cagliostro's accusation was a trumped-up affair, 
designed to annoy and keep open "a running sore in the side of 
the French authorities. ,, Notoriety is the life of charlatanry. Cagli- 
ostro was no common quack, as his history shows. He next pub- 
lished a pamphlet, dated June 20th, 1786, prophesying that the 
Bastille would be demolished and converted into a public prome- 
nade ; and, that a ruler should arise in France, who should abolish 
lettres de cachet and convoke the Estates- General. In a few years 
the prediction was fulfilled. Poor De Launay lost his life, where- 
upon Cagliostro issued a pamphlet exulting over the butchery of 
his enemy. In London, Cagliostro became the bosom friend of 
the eccentric Lord George Gordon. Eventually he became deeply 
involved in debt, and was obliged to pawn his effects. He was un- 
able to impress the common-sense, practical English with his pre- 
tentions to animal magnetism, transcendental medicine, and occult- 
ism. One of his vaunted schemes was to light up the streets of 
London with sea water, which by his magic power he proposed to 
change into oil. The newspapers ridiculed him, especially the 
Courier de V Europe, published and edited by M. Morande, who had 
"picked up some ugly facts about the swindler's early career. ,, 
The freemasons repudiated him with scorn, and would have noth- 
ing to do with his Egyptian Rite. There is a rare old print, a copy 
of which may be seen in the Scottish Rite Library, Washington, 
D. C, which depicts the unmasking of the famous imposter at the 
Lodge of Antiquity, published Nov. 21, 1786, at London. It was 
engraved by an eye-witness of the scene. In company with some 
French gentlemen, Cagliostro visited the Lodge one evening. At 
the banquet which followed the working of the degree, a certain 
worthy brother named Mash, an optician, was called upon to sing. 
Instead of a post-prandial ditty, he gave a clever imitation of a 
quack doctor selling nostrums, and dilating bombastically upon 
the virtues of his elixirs, balsams (Balsamos), and cordials. Cagli- 
ostro was not slow in perceiving that he was the target for Brother 
Mash's shafts of ridicule. His "front of brass/' as Carlyle has it, 
was beaten in, his pachyderm was penetrated by the barbed arrows 



CAGLIOSTRO — A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 



545 



of the ingenious optician's wit. He left the hall in high dudgeon, 
followed by the jeers of the assembled masons. Alas, for the Grand 
Kophta, no "vaults of steel," no masonic honors for him in London. 




The verse appended to the engraving of Cagliostro and the 
English lodge is as follows : 

• ' Born, God knows where, supported, God knows bow, 
From whom descended, difficult to know. 
Lord Crop adopts him as a bosom friend, 
And manly dares his character defend. 



546 THE MONIST. 

This self-dubb'd Count, some few years since became 

A Brother Mason in a borrow'd name ; 

For names like Seville numerous he bears, 

And Proteus like, in fifty forms appears. 

' Behold in me (he says) Dame Nature's child, 

• Of Soul benevolent, and Manners mild ; 
' In me the guiltless Acharat behold, 

• Who knows the mystery of making Gold ; 

• A feeling heart I boast, a conscience pure, 
' I boast a Balsam every ill to cure ; 

• My Pills and Powders, all disease remove, 
•Renew your vigor, and your health improve.' 
This cunning part the arch imposter acts, 
And thus the weak and credulous attracts, 
But now, his history is rendered clear, 

The arrant hypocrite, and quack appear. 

First as Balsams, he to paint essay'd, 

But only daubing, he renounc'd the trade. 

Then, as a Mountebank, abroad he stroll'd 

And many a name on Death's black list enroll'd. 

Three times he visited the British shore, 

And every time a different name he bore. 

The brave Alsatians he with ease cajol'd 

By boasting of Egyptian forms of old. 

The self -same trick he practis'd at Bourdeaux, 

At Strasburg, Lyons, and at Paris too. 

But fate for Brother Mash reserv'd the task 

To strip the vile impostor of his mask, 

May all true Masons his plain tale attend 

And Satire's lash to fraud shall put an end." 

To escape the harpies of the law, who threatened him with a 
debtor's prison, Cagliostro fled to his old hunting-ground, the Con- 
tinent, leaving la petite Comtesse to follow him as best she could. 
But the game was played out. The police had by this time become 
fully cognisant of his impostures. He was forbidden to practise 
his peculiar system of medicine and masonry in Austria, Germany, 
Russia, and Spain. Drawn like a needle to the lodestone rock, he 
went to Rome. Foolish Grand Kophta ! Freemasonry was a cap- 
ital offence in the dominions of the Pope. One lodge, however, 
existed. Says Greeven : "There is reason to suppose that it was 



CAGLIOSTRO — A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 547 

tolerated only because it enabled the Holy Church to spy out the 
movements of freemasons in general." Cagliostro attempted to 
found one of his Egyptian lodges, but met with no success. His 
exchequer became depleted. He appealed to the National As- 
sembly of France to revoke the order of banishment, on the ground 
of "his services to the liberty of France." Suddenly on the evening 
of Dec. 27, 1789, he and his wife were arrested and incarcerated in 
the fortress of San Angelo. His highly-prized manuscript of Egyp- 
tian masonry was seized, together with all his papers and corre- 
spondence. He was tried by the Holy Inquisition. It must have 
been an impressive scene — that gloomy council chamber with the 
cowled inquisitors. Cagliostro's wife appeared against him and 
lifted the veil of Isis that hid the Mysteries of the Charlatan's 
career. The Egyptian manuscript of unknown George Coston, the 
seals, the masonic regalia and paraphernalia were mute and damn- 
ing evidences of his guilt. He was indeed a freemason, even 
though he were not an alchemist, a soothsayer, the Grand Kophta 
of the Pyramids. Cagliostro's line of defence was that "he had 
labored throughout to lead back freemasons, through the Egyp- 
tian ritual to Catholic orthodoxy." He appeared at first to be con- 
trite. But it availed him nothing. Finding his appeals for mercy 
useless, he adopted another tack, and told impossible stories of his 
adventures. He harangued the Holy Fathers for hours, despite 
their threats and protests. Nothing could stop his loquacious 
tongue from wagging. Among other Munchausen tales, he related 
how he had visited the Illuminati of Frankfurt, when on his way to 
Strasburg. In an underground cavern, the secret Grand Master of 
Templars "showed him his signature under a horrible form of oath, 
traced in blood, and pledged him to destroy all despots, especially 
in Rome." Finally, he was condemned to death as a heretic, sor- 
cerer, and freemason, but Pope Pius VI., on the 21st of March, 
1791, commuted the sentence to life imprisonment. His manu- 
script was declared to be "superstitious, blasphemous, wicked, and 
heretical," and was ordered to be burnt by the common hangman, 
together with his masonic implements. From San Angelo, Cagli- 
ostro was conducted to the Castle of San Leon, Urbino. Here, in 



54-8 THE MONIST. 

a subterranean dungeon, he fretted away his life in silence and 
darkness, until 1795, when he died. A French inspector of Italian 
prisons, who visited the fortress of San Leon, March 6, 1795, re- 
ported that he saw a sentence and autograph scribbled upon the 
dungeon wall by Cagliostro. No one knows where the arch- 
enchanter is buried. His wife ended her days in a convent. 

In the Inquisition biography some curious letters to Cagliostro 
from his masonic correspondents in France are published. They 
evidence the profound respect, one might almost say blind worship, 
with which he was regarded by his disciples. 

The masonic lodge at Rome was disrupted shortly after Cagli- 
ostro's arrest. The Sbirri of the Holy Office pounced down upon 
it, but the birds had flown, taking with them their most important 
papers. Father Marcellus says that among the members of this 
Roman lodge were an Englishman and an American. 

And so endeth the career of Cagliostro, one of the most roman- 
tic of history. His condemnation as a sorcerer and freemason has 
invested him with "the halo of a religious martyr, of which perhaps 
no one was less deserving.'' 

Among his effects was found a peculiar seal, upon which were 
engraved the mysterious letters "L. P. D." These letters are sup- 
posed to stand for the Latin sentence, "Lilia pedibus destrue" which 
translated signifies: " Tread the lilies under foot," — alluding to 
the overthrow of the French monarchy. 

Many theosophical writers have placed implicit belief in the 
mission of Cagliostro as the secret agent of an occult brotherhood 
working for human liberty and regeneration. 

Taking this idea for a theme, Alexander the Great — he of the 
pen, not of the sword — has built up a series of improbable though 
highly romantic novels about the personality of Cagliostro, entitled 
The Memoirs of a Physician, and The Diamond Necklace. He makes 
him the Grand Kophta of a society of Illuminati, or exalted Free- 
masons, which extends throughout the world. Pledged to the 
spread of equality, fraternity, and liberty among men, the Brother- 
hood seeks to overthrow the thrones of Europe, symbols of oppres- 
sion and persecution. The Memoirs of a Physician opens with a re- 



CAGLIOSTRO — A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 549 

markable prologue, descriptive of a solemn conclave of the secret 
superiors of the Order. The meeting takes place at night in a ruined 
chateau located in a mountainous region near the old city of Stras- 
burg. Cagliostro reveals his identity as the Arch-master of the Fra- 
ternity, the Grand Kophta, who is in possession of the secrets of 
the pyramids. He takes upon himself the important task of " tread- 
ing the lilies under foot" and bringing about the destruction of the 
monarchy in France, the storm-centre of Europe. He departs on 
his mission. Like Torrini, the conjurer, he has a miniature house 
on wheels drawn by two Flemish horses. One part of the vehicle 
is fitted up as an alchemical laboratory, wherein the sage Althotas 
makes researches for the elixir of life. Arriving at the chateau of 
a nobleman of the ancien rdgime, Cagliostro magnetises a young 
lady and causes her to see in a carafe of water the death of Louis 
XVI. and Marie Antoinette by the guillotine. Aided by the free- 
masons of Paris, Cagliostro sets to work to encompass the ruin of 
the throne and to bring on the great Revolution. Dumas in this re- 
markable series of novels passes in review before us Jean Jacques 
Rousseau, Cardinal de Rohan, Louis XV. and XVI., Marie Antoin- 
ette, Comtesse du Barry, Madame de la Motte, Dan ton, Marat, and 
a host of people famous in the annals of history. Cagliostro is ex- 
alted from a charlatan into an apostle of liberty endowed with 
many noble qualities. He is represented as possessing occult pow- 
ers, and his stances are depicted as realities. Dumas himself was 
a firm believer in spiritualism, and hobnobbed with the American 
medium Daniel D. Home. 

Cagliostro^ house in the Marais quarter, Paris, still remains — 
a memorial in stone of its former master. In the summer of 1899 
the Courier des £tats Urn's, New York, contained an interesting ar- 
ticle on this mansion. I quote as follows : 

" Cagliostro's house still stands in Paris. Few alterations have been made in 
it since the days of its glories and mysteries ; and one may easily imagine the effect 
which it produced in the night upon those who gazed upon its strange pavilions 
and wide terraces when the lurid lights of the alchemist's furnaces streamed 
through the outer window blinds. The building preserves its noble lines in spite 
of modern additions and at the same time has a weird appearance which produces 
an almost depressing effect. But this doubtless comes from the imagination, be- 



55<> 



THE MONIST. 



cause the house was not built by Cagliostro ; he simply rented it. When he took 
up his quarters in it, it was the property of the Marquise d'Orvillers. Cagliostro 
made no changes in it, except perhaps a few temporary interior additions for the 
machines which he used in his stances in magic. 

"The plan of the building may well be said to be abnormal. The outer gate 
opens upon the rue Saint Claude at the angle of the boulevard Beaumarchais. The 
courtyard has a morose and solemn aspect. At the end under a flagged porch 
there is a stone staircase worn by time, but it still preserves its old iron railing. 
On looking at that staircase, one cannot help thinking of the hosts of beautiful 
women, attracted by curiosity to the den of the sorcerer, and terrified at what they 




Courtyard of Cagliostro's House in Paris (Present Condition). 



imagined they were about to see, who placed their trembling hands upon that old 
railing. Here we can evoke the shade of Mme. de la Motte running up the steps, 
with her head covered with a cloak, and the ghosts of the valets of Cardinal de 
Rohan sleeping in the driver's seat of the carriage with a lantern at their feet, 
while their master, in company with the Great Kophta, is occupied with necro- 
mancy, metallurgy, cabala, or one irocri tics, which, as everybody knows, constitute 
the four elementary divisions of Cagliostro's art. 

"A secret stairway now walled up ran near the large one to the second story, 
where its traces are found ; and a third stairway, narrow and tortuous, still exists 
at the other end of the building on the boulevard side. It is in the center of the 



CAGLIOSTRO — A STUDY IN CHARLATANISM. 55 1 

wall, in complete darkness, and leads to the old salons now cut into apartments, 
the windows of which look out upon a terrace. Below, with their mouldering 
doors, are the carriage house and the stable, — the stable of Djerid, the splendid 
black horse of Lorenza Feliciani." 

To verify the above statement, I wrote to M. Alfred de Ricaudy 
(an authority on archaeological matters and editor of L' Echo du 
Public, Paris), who responded as follows, Jan. 13, 1900: 

"The house still exists just as it was in the time of Cagliostro [the exterior]. 
Upon the boulevard, contiguous to the mansion, there was formerly the shop of 
one Camerlingue, a bookseller, now occupied by an upholsterer. On January 30, 
1789, Cagliostro took up his residence in this quaint old house. It was then No. 
30 Rue St. Claude, at the corner of the Boulevard Saint Antoine, afterwards the 
Boulevard Beaumarchais. The Marquise d'Orvillers was the owner of the premises 
occupied by the thaumaturgist of the eighteenth century. Her father, M. de Cha- 
vigny, captain in the royal navy, had built this house on ground acquired in 17 19 
from Mme. de Harlay, who had inherited it from her father, le Chevalier Bouche- 
rat. (See Lefeuve, Old House of Paris, Vol. IV., issue 51, page 24, published b> 
Achille Faure, Paris, 1863.)" 

Cagliostro's house is now No. 1, the numbering of the street 
having been altered during the reign of Louis Philippe. Says M. 
de Ricaudy : 

' ' The numbering originally began at the Rue Saint Louis, now Rue de Tu- 
renne, in which is situated the church Saint Dennis du St. Sacrement. When the 
houses were re-numbered with reference to the direction of the current of the 
Seine (under Louis Philippe), the numbers of the Rue St. Claude, which is paral- 
lel to the river, began at the corner of the boulevard, and in that way the former 
number 30 became number 1." 

The sombre old mansion has had a peculiar history. Cagli- 
ostro locked the doors of the laboratories and seance-rooms on the 
13th of June, 1788, on the occasion of his exile from France. All 
during the great Revolution the house remained clcsed and intact. 
Eighteen years of undisturbed repose passed away. The dust set- 
tled thick upon everything ; spiders built their webs upon the gilded 
ceilings of the salons. Finally, in the Napoleonic year 18 10, the 
doors of the temple of magic and mystery were unfastened, and the 
furniture and rare curios, the retorts and crucibles, belonging to the 
dead conjurer were auctioned off. An idle crowd of curious quid 
nuncs gathered to witness the sale, and pry about. Says Ricaudy : 



552 THE MONIST. 

"The household furniture, belongings, etc., of the illustrious adventurer were 
not sold until five years after his death. The sale took place in the apartment 
which he had occupied, and was by order of the municipal government. An ex- 
amination revealed many curious acoustical and optical arrangements constructed 
in the building by Cagliostro. By the aid of these contrivances and that of well- 
trained confederates, he perpetrated many supposedly magical effects, summoned 
the shades of the dead," etc. (See Dictionnaire de la France. By A. G. de St. 
Fargeau, Vol. III., page 245. Paris, 185 1.) 

The writer of the article in the Courier des j&tats Unis further 
states : 

' ' Since the auctioning of Cagliostro's effects the gloomy house of the Rue St. 
Claude has had no history. Ah, but I am mistaken. In 1855 some repairs were 
made. The old carriage door was removed, and the one that took its place was 
taken from the ruins of the Temple. There it stands to-day with its great bolts 
and immense locks. The door of the prison of Louis XVI. closes the house of 
Cagliostro." 

M. de Ricaudy verifies this statement about the door of the 
mansion. The student of Parisian archaeology will do well to con- 
sult M. de Ricaudy, as well as M. Labreton, 93 Boulevard Beau- 
marchais, who possesses forty volumes relating to the history of 
the Marais Quarter. Last but not least is the indefatigable student 
of ancient landmarks of Paris, M. G. Lenotre, author of Paris rd- 
volutionaire, vieilles tnaisons, vieux papiers. 

My friend, M. FeUicien Trewey, who visited the place in the 
summer of 1901, at my request reported to me that it had been 
converted into a commercial establishment. A grocer, a feather 
curler, and a manufacturer of cardboard boxes occupied the build- 
ing, oblivious of the fact that the world-renowned Cagliostro once 
lived there, plying his trade of sorcerer, mesmerist, physician, and 
.mason, like a true chevalier d'industrie. Alas ! the history of these 
old houses ! They have their days of splendid prosperity, followed 
by shabby gentility and finally by sordid decay, — battered, blear- 
eyed, and repulsive-looking. 

Henry Ridgely Evans. 
Washington, D. C.